Lessons politicians should learn from the Olympics

Lessons politicians should learn from the Olympics
Photo by Michael Pead via Wikimedia Commons.

It's only been a few days, but I already miss the Olympics.

Sure, I could watch those same sports if I set my mind to it, but – really – what's the point of watching water polo without national pride and a gold medal on the line? It's just people swimming around throwing a ball toward a goal occasionally and kicking each other in the groin then. I'll pass.

And until regular-season football begins, I don't have any other sports to follow. I suppose I could watch the Cubs, but at the moment that sounds about as much fun as watching non-Olympic water polo, though – granted – with less groin kicking.

Mostly, though, I miss rooting for America on a daily basis.

With the Olympics over, I haven't had a chance to do that as much – besides, of course, the stirring victory over Mexico in soccer on Wednesday night.

Instead, the presidential election has kicked back into full gear as each candidate delves further and further into the mud. It's not a fun process to watch. And it's certainly not fun to root for. I just have to keep telling myself, "Ignore the rhetoric, pay attention to the policies, ignore the rhetoric, pay attention to the policies, ignore the rhetoric, pay attention to policies." If I had ruby slippers, I probably by now would have found myself transported to an alternate-universe Kansas where its electoral votes are decided by a friendly game of rock, paper, scissors.

I'm tired of hearing about Romney's tax returns. We all know what they show. A rich guy who is able to hire really smart people to help him pay as little as possible to the government. It would look bad, sure, but that's all you're going to find. Just about every other rich person does the same thing. I don't care whether he shares the returns or not. I'm tired of hearing about how Obama's plan is going to destroy Medicare, but Romney's plan isn't. It's simply not true, and we still haven't even been told what Romney's plan is. I'm tired of hearing about Romneyhood. I'm tired of hearing about Obamaloney.

In the end, I'm going to vote for whoever I believe is most likely to compromise. I don't care if all of the things I want get implemented or not. I just want our government to function. Governance should not be like an individual Olympic event in which the main goal is to get the gold for yourself. Governance should be more like the opening ceremonies – a hodgepodge of ideas that somehow, beautifully work when brought together.

For centuries, we've progressed through compromise. A little of this. A little of that. Lately, however, it's been "my party's way or the highway." And the final result is that we all end up stranded on the highway. If Republicans had agreed to work with Democrats on healthcare reform, we'd have something more people are in favor of. If Democrats had agreed to work with Republicans on meaningful deficit reduction, we'd be further along on that goal. Instead, the only thing politicians worry about is what will get them elected, which is sticking completely to party lines.

I hate it. Oh, how I hate it.

I hate that compromise has become a dirty word. I hate that governance has been replaced by political jingoism. Instead of becoming united toward creating a better America that involves ideas from both sides, we have become increasingly divided thinking that it's possible to have sole possession of the gold medal.

This isn't possible, though. There are simply too many people who want too many different things. America is a melting pot – not just of people, but also of ideas.

And like our basketball teams and women's soccer team, the only way to truly achieve the gold medal is by working together. The sooner we realize that, the better off we'll be. And that is something I will continue to root for.

• Joe Grace is a writer and  journalist who lives in Chicago with his wife. Write to him at joewriter81@gmail.com.

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